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Magnificent and Impressive Buddhism, But Little Too “Passive”

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Writer admin Date03 Nov 2011 Read16,365 Comment0


Magnificent and Impressive Buddhism, But Little Too “Passive”

General Public Survey Released from Buddhist Society Institute of Jogye Order

<Pic. According to the survey conducted by Buddhist Society Institute, Buddhism made the greatest contribution to Korea’s social development. However, Buddhists are currently seen to make the least amount of social contribution and participation. Photo of Most Ven. Jaseung and other Jogye Order Executive Council members pledge to donate organs upon their passing>
South Koreans generally believe that Buddhism contributed the most, out of all religions, to the country’s social development. Moreover, Buddhism received the highest score for being the most peaceful religion and many people have shown high expectations for the future. However, Buddhism received negative feedbacks on its capacity to find social solutions and its willingness to work for the interest of general public and participate in social activism.
The result from the Buddhist Social Institute survey (Director, Ven. Bupan) was finally released on November 1, 2011. The survey “Korean socio-cultural and religious awareness” demonstrated the nation’s favorable attraction towards Buddhism, although Buddhist respondents showed strong conformity to societal reality.   
The survey was originally conducted within the scope of Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism to determine South Korean’s attitude toward the nation’s social and cultural practices, and to identify religious (Buddhist) understanding of people. The survey could be utilized for future studies and planning. The survey was conducted from September 26 for 20 days in 16 different cities (except for Jeju Island), age from 16-60 yrs, both male and female, with total of 1500 people.

[ Most peaceful Religion-  Blue: Catholic     Red: Protestant    Green: Buddhist]
[From left: Catholic, Protestant, Buddhism, Atheist, and Overall]
< Dilemmas between Buddhism and Buddhists >
The survey indicates which religion (out of Buddhism, Catholicism, Christianity, among other major religions) is favored by the people and identifies a realistic perception of religions in Korea. First of all, Buddhism (35.7%) was voted as the most peaceful religion, followed by Catholicism (23.5%), and Protestant (18.7%). Moreover, Buddhism was selected to have made the greatest social contribution (34.7%) in Korea. Thus it can be interpreted that Buddhism is generally accepted socially and its past contributions are recognized by the nation. Approximately 34% indicated that the future is very bright for Buddhism. Although Buddhism as a religion played a central role in development of the nation, Buddhists are ironically seen as not making enough contribution socially compared to the other religions.

[Religion with brightest future- Blue: Catholic     Red: Protestant    Green: Buddhist]
[From left: Catholic, Protestant, Buddhism, Atheist, and Overall]

<What Distinguishes Buddhism from Other Religions>
The most important role of monks in the modern society is to dedicate themselves in their practice to obtain enlightenment (52.0%). This was accepted as the main priority compared to other roles, such as implementing compassion in society (22%) and keeping the Vinaya (precepts) while leading a pure life (16.9%). At the same time, monks are seen to be the ‘Leaders to teach peaceful mind’ (41.7%) more so than ‘free person who left the secular world (26.9%)’. Moreover, Buddhist monks’ positive image (28.6%) surpassed negative image (15.8%). Therefore, Buddhist monks are expected to take on certain amount of responsibility to heal modern man’s pain and suffering. Striving towards enlightenment with appropriate training and practice is what distinguish Buddhism from other religion.
Unfortunately, Buddhists’ passive role is undoubtedly revealed in their daily social activities. Although Buddhists showed great interest in meditation and Seon practice (73.5%), putting them into practice is most often neglected. Reading religious texts, participating in regular meditation (prayer), precept observance, general attitude in compliance with their faith, sense of belonging, and belief in the principle of their religion received very low score. Observing religious life and interest in religious experiences also ended at the bottom level. Buddhists also showed lower sense of responsibility and pride compare to Catholics and Christians. Of course, there was some criticism that superficial rituals and reflection is not the top priority. Further analysis is required to interpret these findings.
Korean people’s interest and understanding in their traditional culture were also analyzed. The ‘general image’ of Korean Buddhism was accepted strongly by the nation was “Korea’s Cultural Heritage.” Moreover, majority of the respondents (53.8%) said Korean Buddhism should take the “leading role in maintaining Korean Traditional Cultural Heritage’. In response to the question, ’Templestay should make greater contribution to promote Korean traditional culture and foster nation’s sentiments’, 34.6% responded positively and 17.9% responded negatively. Unfortunately, only 32.1 % of respondents stated they were willing to participate in Templestay program, compare to 58.6% who declined their willingness to participate.
Officially designated National Cultural Heritages are seen not only as Buddhist properties (40.4%), but as the cultural assets of the whole nation. Moreover, the majority of the respondents stated that these Cultural Heritages must be the responsibility of the nation, thus the maintenance cost should also be the responsibility of the nation.

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